Monday, June 12, 2006

All This and Elisha Cook Jr. Too

Of all the clips I've uploaded onto YouTube, this is probably the most obviously worthwhile: the first (and best) ten minutes of the movie Hellzapoppin'. I've already said my say about Hellzapoppin' and Olsen and Johnson, so all I really need to do now is embed the clip. Enjoy:

This was, as I said, the best part of the movie -- one comedy writer, who loved the film and paid tribute to it in numberous ways, told me "once they started telling a story, the movie tanked." I wouldn't go that far; there are some good things in the rest of the picture, but the insanity of the first reel is so pure that it's a shame to see it be abandoned in favour of a conventional Hollywood structure, even if the filmmakers thumb their nose at convention a little by admitting up-front that they're selling out ("you've gotta have a story because every picture has one," the director bellows).

The best jokes and fourth-wall-breaking tricks from this section are well-known, of course, but that's because they've been lifted by so many people who came after. Not that Olsen and Johnon's jokes were original; the whole point was that they weren't original and were bringing old-school Vaudeville and Burlesque humour to shake up the stuffy world of Broadway and Hollywood. But they're unique for their near-exhausting piling of jokes on top of jokes, and any "wacky" or self-referential comedy owes a little bit to Hellzapoppin'.


Rob Bates said...

There are some awesome dance numbers in this movie too. You can buy it pretty cheap on ebay.

I've always felt bad that I am not old enough to have seen the original Hellzapoppin stage play, which is apparently all this times ten.

Michael Guillen said...

Thanks for the YouTube link, Jaime. I had the great pleasure of catching "Hellzapoppin'" on the big screen in Paris.

Maxim said...

And now it's gone... what a shame, but thanks for posting it anyway, haven't seen it in years. Next, how about International House? Bela Lugosi, WC Fields and Franklin Pangborn - together at last!